Find Meaning (Instead Of Happiness) Via Your Reason For Being (Self-Awareness)

Photo: Pixabay/Geralt

“This is my calling. This is what I was meant to do.”

Have you ever met a person who is passionate and clear about their “reason for being?” If so, you can’t ignore their enthusiasm, confidence, and drive.  I remember reading an interview with Steven Spielberg in USA Today, talking about his Shoah Foundation. He said,

“This is the most important work I can be doing.”

Is that how you look at your work?

Many see their work as simply a series of meaningless efforts and interactions. That is unlikely to lead to fulfillment over time, nor contribute to a fulfilling focus today.

But how are YOU looking at your life and work today? Perhaps you integrate meaning into your personal life by volunteering time to your community or a non-profit organization or seeking to go the extra mile at work. Finding a reason for being is often a journey of integrating those smaller daily decisions and commitments with your value system, rather than simply doing something to make yourself “happy” today.  A “reason for being” goes beyond feeling happy–it’s about creating meaning in life and work.

In fact, a study by researchers from Florida State University, the University of Minnesota, and Stanford University, found that happiness is primarily about the “now,” being happy in the present. Meaningfulness primarily involves integrating the past, present, and future.

Ironically, although meaningfulness contributes to satisfaction in life, engaging in meaningful endeavors often requires unhappiness in the short term. For example, experiencing discontent with unfair policies or practices can lead us to tackle difficult, but important issues in order to serve others.

Engaging in our “reason for being” will cost us. It will drain time, energy and funds. But we make the sacrifices willingly because we passionately believe in serving those around us.

A chef at a neighborhood restaurant left a corporate banquet position to create a warm, family environment with tasty, healthy fare that amazes customers. He said,  “I took a 75% cut in pay and doubled the hours I spend at work, but I’m doing what I love – and customers love it, too.”

I’ve also heard of a well-known speaker, usually doing her work in very large crowds, intentionally carving out time to focus on one-on-one interaction with people in her own city who need encouragement. In a season of some disenchantment with the “big” side of her industry, she is finding needed refreshment by spending intentional time with individuals, and giving some focus to the “small.”

Following the example of these two professionals, what projects, activities, or opportunities engage you, inspire you, and lift you up?

Keep a list. Revisit your list every couple of weeks. Refine your list as you get clearer on those few, vitally meaningful things that provide insights into your passions.

Your daily job may or may not be fully aligned with your reason for being. But what is important is to understand your reason for being, and engage in it as often as you can. Do what you can to incorporate your life meaning into your work as well. You’ll make the world a better place when you do.

“Photo © Krasimira Nevenova – Adobe Stock. All Rights Reserved.”



S. Chris Edmonds is the founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group. After a 15-year executive career leading and managing successful business teams, Chris began his consulting company in 1990. Under Chris’ guidance, culture clients have consistently boosted their customer satisfaction and employee engagement rates by 40 percent or more and results and profits by 35 percent or more.